A BID has been made to give legal protection to a celebrated Cumnor house which could be flattened for homes.

A member of the public has applied to have Larkbeare at 85 Cumnor Hill listed by English Heritage.

This would mean stricter criteria would have to be applied when councillors decide on plans to knock it down for 21 houses.

It comes as preservation groups urge Vale of White Horse District Council to reject the scheme, which would remove 200 trees.

The 1907 five-bed house was designed by architect Sir Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis – famed for the Italianate village of Portmeirion in north Wales – and stands in a large plot of land.

English Heritage spokesman Renee Fok said it would be advising the Government about the bid next month.

She added: “We have visited the site for an assessment and are currently consulting the relevant parties.”

Oxford Preservation Trust director Debbie Dance said the house is “one of Cumnor Hill’s most historically significant buildings” and new homes would jar with surrounding spacious plots.

She told the council demolishing it would be an “irreversible loss of a significant building and historical asset”.

The Victorian Society’s James Hughes said: “We strongly object to the demolition of a very good building by one of the early twentieth century’s leading architectural lights.”

He said the home was commissioned by Anne Wynne Thackeray, the great-niece of poet William Makepeace Thackeray. Guests she entertained there included composers Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan-Williams.

The Oxfordshire and Architectural and Historical Society said there is a “very good argument” to give it Grade II listed status as the home is of “considerable architectural significance”.

Cumnor Parish Council also objected, saying the house is of “very considerable and historic merit” and raised concerns new homes could worsen the flood risk. Thames Water has dismissed this.

Portmeirion was used as the location for cult 1960s TV show The Prisoner.

Bewley Homes land director Andrew Brooks branded the house “mediocre”.

He told the Oxford Mail: “I believe the request for listing isn’t so much on the basis of the quality of the property and more on the basis of who the architect was.”

Fifteen of the proposed homes would be three to five bedrooms while eight would be affordable.

Mr Brook said: “There is a large demand for both affordable and private housing, especially in the area but even more so in the Vale.”